Like millions of people throughout the world, I woke up this morning to an unknown election result. Darn! I wanted to know what was in store for the next four years and I wanted to know NOW!
People like predictability. People like to know what’s next. Living in the unknown can be uncomfortable, yet that’s where we are at this moment in time.
So, if you want to get more comfortable with the unknown—whether it’s the unknown of an election result or the unknown of everyday life—here are some tips:
Stay present in your body. When your mind starts to spin, shift your attention to your body and breath. Notice the coolness of the air when you breathe in and its warmth when you breathe out. Notice the connection of your feet with the ground beneath you. Whenever your mind wanders, bring it back to your breath or your feet.
Realize that this, too, shall pass. Everything changes. At some point we’ll all know the outcome of the election. And then in four years another election will take place and we’ll go through uncertainty once again. We’re in the midst of an event in the timeline of history.
See if you can let go of the need for a predictable result, realizing that “knowing” can be an illusion, anyway. Consider the times when you thought you know how everything was going to go, then something came out of left field and completely surprised you. Even when you think you know, life is full of unpredictable twists and turns.
Which leads me to the last point. It’s okay not to know. Can you let go of the need for a predictable result and instead, bring your awareness to the present moment? Remember, you can bring your attention to your feet connected to the ground anytime. Because one thing you do know is that as long as you’re on this earth, gravity will hold you close.
Here’s a link to my latest Mindful 180 podcast episode where I discuss this topic. Listen here or on your favorite app. I hope it serves you today and in the weeks to come.
For added support, I’m offering Mindful Stress Management Workshops for workplace teams over Zoom. I have limited availability, so please send me a direct message on LinkedIn or email me at for booking inquiries.
With the uncertainty about the coronavirus comes a tremendous amount of stress. Many questions about the virus and its implications remain unanswered—and may continue to be unanswered for the weeks and months ahead. Immediate challenges from the virus, such as illness or loss of work, bring stress. This stress is often compounded by worries about the future. Even if someone isn’t experiencing challenges at this moment, anxiety can still ensue by worrying about what’s next.
From a mindfulness standpoint, an effective technique to help reduce stress is to practice “not knowing.” By not imagining outcomes based on fears, you can remain open and present to what is. To practice, try to notice when you worry about the future and then remind yourself that you don’t know. Will this last for months? I don’t know. Will I get sick, or will my loved ones get sick? I don’t know. Will life return to the way it was? I don’t know. This practice can help your anxieties lose some of their power, as you realize that your mind may be creating stories about what’s to come— when in reality, you simply don’t know.
It can be freeing to notice your thoughts without getting lost in them—and instead, live in the immediacy of the present moment. As of today, the present moment reveals that the coronavirus issue is upon us and life as we know it is changed. Beyond that, we simply don’t know what’s next.
All we know is that we’re all in this together, since we’re all part of the interconnected web of life. And we can only hope that it’s our interconnectedness, rather than our social distancing, that helps pull us through this crisis. Meanwhile, reminding yourself “I don’t know” may help ease anxieties about the future, as you bring your awareness to the present moment.
If you’d like to try a meditation to help you release stories about the future that can create stress, check out my latest podcast episode here: https://joyrains.com/episode-8/.
The practice of meditation helps you respond to life’s events consciously, rather than react unconsciously. This can go a long way towards reducing stress. For example, if you’re waiting in line to pay for your purchases and someone cuts in front of you, rather than going into an immediate stress-related reaction (such as shouting “How dare you cut in front of me! I’ve been waiting 20 minutes!), meditation can help you notice events without having such a strong emotional reaction. You may be able to calmly say to the encroacher, “Excuse me please, people are waiting in line here. Please step to the back of the line.”
Practicing meditation doesn’t have to take long; simply sit in a quiet place for a few minutes, close your eyes and bring all your attention to your breath, noticing your chest rising and falling, or noticing the coolness of the air when you inhale and its warmth when you exhale. Any time your mind wanders, gently bring your attention back to your breath. This practice, even if done for a few minutes a day, can help recharge and center you.
If you’d like to listen to guided meditations, check out my new podcast, Mindful 180. https://joyrains.com/category/mindful-180-podcast/
Got stress? Here are three tips to help you center and find balance.
Tip #1: Create a Stress-Free Zone at Home
Have a “stress-free zone” in your home. You can learn to associate a dedicated place with quieting your mind, a place where you sit for a few minutes each day and focus on your breathing. You could devote an entire room to this practice, or just a corner of a room—or even a favorite chair. One busy professional carved out a small space next to the dryer in her basement laundry room. Installing a sliding translucent screen for an outer wall transformed this basement nook into a quiet meditation space. Another person transformed a bedroom corner into a private space by using a sheer curtain as a divider. Your “stress-free zone” should include a dedicated place to sit, such as a chair or meditation cushion, and could also include inspirational items, such as books of short readings, music, or artwork. Taking the time to pause—even for a few minutes a day—can go a long way towards managing stress.
Tip #2: Weave Mindful Moments Into Your Day
Consider weaving “mindful moments” into your day-times when you quiet the chatter in your mind and bring your focus into the present moment. For example, when you walk to the coffee machine in the office, bring all your attention to the soles of your feet as they touch the ground. Any time your mind wanders, gently bring your awareness back to your feet. Or when you eat lunch, bring all your awareness to the process of eating: the pace of your eating, the taste of the food, the colors of the food on your plate. When your attention wanders, gently bring it back. This process of bringing all your attention to what’s happening in the present moment can also go a long way towards managing stress.
Tip #3: Do a body relaxation meditation.
Sit in a quiet place and gently lower your eyelids to a soft gaze or a full close. Slowly move your awareness throughout your entire body, either starting with your feet and working your way up, or starting with your head and working your way down. Pause at each muscle group and see if you can release any tension. You may want to silently say to yourself “relax” with each inhale, and “release” with each exhale. Or you may want to imagine a muscle group getting warmer and warmer until the tension melts away. If you find that you’re more relaxed, see if you can develop a muscle memory of what your body feels like when it’s relaxed, so you can tap into that memory in times of stress.
These three tips are simple to practice, and best of all, they’re free! They don’t require any special equipment or training. All they require is remembering to stop and pause—if only for a few moments.
#1: Change expectations. One reason people get stressed in traffic is that their expectation for the amount of traffic they’re expecting is often different than the reality of the volume of traffic. By approaching the driving time with an open mind and without expectations for the way things “should be,” people are less likely to get stressed.
#2: “Be” in the traffic. If you’re stuck in traffic, accept that this is where you are right now. And not only are you “in” the traffic, you’re part of the traffic! You’re in a community of people who are all stuck in this same situation, all wanting to get to where they’re going.
#3: Notice negative thinking. Negative thinking can amplify stress. If you notice negative thoughts about being in traffic, see if you can focus on something positive about the situation instead, like being grateful for having a car, or having a cell phone to let someone know you’re running late.
Managing your mindset can go a long way to reducing stress levels. Remember, you can’t change external events—you can only change your response to them.
Whether you experience turbulence on an airplane, in your work life, or in your home life—meditation can help see you through times that are challenging. You can practice meditating by shifting your attention from your thoughts to something neutral, such as your breath or the feeling of your feet on the ground.
If you’re traveling in an airplane that starts to pitch and shake—your imagination may kick into high gear. The scenarios you imagine are dire: the plane dropping thousands of feet, crashing into the ocean, and your family members grieving your demise. Pretty soon you are in a full-blown stress response.
WAIT. Consider that your stress response is more in response to your thoughts than in response to what’s actually happening with the plane. You don’t know that the plane is going to drop, or that you’ll crash into the ocean, or that this will be the end of life as you know it.
CONSIDER. All you know is that you are experiencing turbulence. That’s it. See if you can stop making predictions about a dire future outcome.
CONNECT. Plant your feet on the floor beneath your seat. Feel the connection between the soles of your feet and the carpet. This will help keep your attention in your body, rather than lost in anxious thoughts.
BREATHE. Bring your attention to your breath moving in and out of your body. Perhaps you can notice the coolness of the air when you breathe in and its warmth when you breathe out. Notice your chest rising and falling. You can even silently say to yourself, “rising, falling” with each inhale and exhale to help keep your attention on your breath.
Every time you notice another anxious thought arising, see if you can release it, and gently bring your attention back to your feet and your breath. Bring your attention back as often as needed, even if it’s every second or two.
Remember, turbulence is not a permanent condition, and this, too, shall pass.